Chapter 73. <The One Who Gathers Death. (2)>
Translator: thursdays Editor: Sasha
What is hunger?
It had been a week since I started fasting.
The first and second days were the most painful. After three days passed, the pain went away. My gut movements slowed down. My thoughts became slow. My life itself faded a little.
If you compare a person’s life to a river, in my case one could say that the current had shrunk and dried up like a river during a year of famine.
It quietly faded and receded. The stream of water shrunk and shrunk again, and it persisted like that until one day, the stream of pain, the stream of thoughts, and the stream of life all dried up.
Was this what [hunger] was?
Did the Heavenly Demon want me to train like this?
I got up from my cross-legged position.
“This isn’t what she meant,” I muttered quietly. “If I just stay still, this will all be for nothing.”
I took out my sword. In my head, I pictured the movements of the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art, and I swung the sword according to that image. Thoughtlessly.
-What are you doing?
Winter was cold. I inhaled and exhaled the cold air. Was it because I drank snow for the past 7 days? My breath seemed to resemble a flurry of snow.
“I was thinking about this wrong. I’m a little stupid… The [hunger] that the Heavenly Demon mentioned is not simply [not eating]. It’s even worse to just fast in the lotus position.”
It was the first time I moved my body in a week, and I immediately ran out of breath.
My muscles were shaking. My respiratory tract was tight.
“Hunger is when [you want to eat but cannot eat].
Clumsily, I tried to do a sword dance.
However, I was sweating. It was different from sitting silently. My body began to come alive. The amount of sweat dripping from my skin was probably equal to the amount of water I took in.
“This week, I was thinking about a farmer. A hungry farmer.”
What is hunger?
“What sort of farmer wouldn’t go out to the field because he was hungry? Whether he’s hungry or not, whether he ate or not, he has to work. And even if he works hard, there’s nothing to eat.”
Wasn’t that what hunger was?
“He swings his pickax. He digs the ground. But it’s a famine. It’s been a grim time. No matter how much he works, the seeds don’t sprout. The seeds really won’t grow.”
I swung my sword.
“Because there is nothing he can do—”
I closed my eyes.
I imagined a land that was dry and arid.
“—that’s why he is hungry.”
A farmer strikes the dry ground with a pickax. Thud! The dirt would crumble. Like breaking a stale cookie.
“It’s been over half a year since it rained.”
The reservoir is empty. The well in the village is also dry. There isn’t a single drop of water in the field. In broad daylight, an old man comes out and sits at the entrance of the village. He doesn’t speak. The old man’s wrinkled face is also dry.
“Because it’s a drought.”
The sun is hot.
Some villagers have already abandoned their farming work. Their fields were abandoned. Since they abandoned their work, there were fewer reasons for them to not abandon their homes. The villager took the children and left for the coast.
“But this farmer hasn’t let go yet.”
“Because the sea doesn’t seem to be different. He doesn’t know how to fish. People can only live by what they learn to steal, and the farmer only knows to steal from the earth. It was the same for his father, his father’s father, and the father before that…”
One day passed.
The farmer goes out to the field. He goes to work even though there is no reward. In the evening, he climbs the mountain and peels off the bark of some surviving trees that he can eat.
“Now, there is hardly any bark left.”
All the villagers had taken off.
When he descended from the mountain and looked back, the trees were all white and bare. From a distance, it looked like a forest of birch trees.
Hunger was what made the world white.
The farmer swung his pickax on the bare ground.
I swung my sword in the air.
“He can’t even eat the bark.”
He has a family.
“It’s been more than a week since he’s eaten anything resembling food.”
He has a child.
Bae Hu-ryeong asked. The pickax swung repeatedly, as did my sword.
-So what are you going to do?
“First, he’ll go to the well in the village.”
He barely scoops a bowl of water from the well, which you could see the floor of.
“The water is used to prepare the bark. Put small leaves in the water… And then boil it.”
The fresh smell of plants.
The thick smell of the bark mixed with the water vapor and spread through the air.
The farmer swallows his drool.
I also gulped.
’I want to eat.’
He wants to bite off the bark.
The bark was becoming sweeter. The bark retained the smell of the water and leaves. He thought it would be sweet. He wanted to tear the bark apart with his teeth. The thick juices would probably flow from where it was torn. There would be an earthy taste to it. A brown colored food.
The bark was edible soil.
’I want to eat.’
But he had to be patient.
’I have to give it to my children… At least this. I have to give it to them.’
The children whined. They cried.
The bark that their father brought. The children hated the bark that he brought and barely touched it. They screamed. They complained while eating.
They flipped it.
Without thinking, the farmer slapped his child on the cheek.
Just like the farmer swinging his arm, I also swung my sword.
“This isn’t me.”
The farmer turns his back on his children.
’This isn’t who I am.’
…He wasn’t someone of the nature to beat his kids originally. He was not such a person. However, the famine was terrible. It had been so long since he’d put proper food in his mouth, and his nerves were sharp. He became sensitive. It was too much…
’My life isn’t supposed to be like this.’
The farmer picks up the bark.
What is hunger?
There have been numerous famines since the world began.
There were countless farmers.
There was a lot of hunger.
「Fight while you are hungry.」
Can you move despite the hunger?
「All of your sword’s movements must stem from hunger.」
That was right.
There was motion in hunger.
「Think of the hungry voices and groans, the arm movements and footsteps of starving people, everything.」
The motion was that of a farmer slapping his child.
The gesture was that of the farmer, angrily leaving the house and dumping the bark in the yard.
The gesture was that of the farmer going back and handing the children the dirt-stained bark.
「Think about it and plant it in your mind.」
Since the world began, some farmers beat their children, while others touch their children’s cheeks and whisper their apologies. Some farmers would even beat their children and kill them. Some farmers would survive until next year, while others die with their children.
That was how it was, and that was how it would be.
「Make it into your will.」
There were no gestures that did not come from hunger.
「Based on this will.」
「Crafted only from hunger, swing your sword.」
With the motion of indignation and resentment of hitting a child, I swung my sword.
Throwing the bark on the ground, I swung my sword with a motion that meant abandoning life.
With the gesture of handing the bark back to the children, I swung my sword.
「Only then will the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art reveal its true power.」
Infernal Heavens Demonic Art.
Asa. The sword of starvation.
I slowly opened my eyes.
The white daylight in the snowy field had turned into black night.
My whole body was soaked with sweat. It was only when I was drenched with sweat that I felt hunger. I was hungry. A mad hunger gnawed at my stomach. My empty stomach seemed to have sprouted teeth and chewed on my intestines.
’This is hunger.’
’This is hunger.’
The demonic arts.
The nails that scratch the world.
The walls of the cave were scattered with scratches. Was there a storm of something? My sword strikes were clearly engraved on the stone wall. Stalactites and stalagmites were sliced through.
The stone walls and pillars had been cut by a blade.
Even though I had barely used any Aura.
’But… It’s still not enough.’
I had just reached the edge of this new skill I had gained.
I felt it clearly.
With the sword paths drawn in my head. An image drawn in my heart. The unmistakable feeling and sensation of the two matching was at my fingertips.
That’s how I knew.
“It’s still clumsy.”
The place where my fingertips softly touched.
It wasn’t the peak of the mountain, but its entrance at best.
-Are you crazy…
Bae Hu-ryeong looked at me with a face that said he was tired.
“Oi, why are you calling me crazy again? This time, I’m training properly.”
-Properly? Even those who practice the seduction arts are training more properly than you.
Bae Hu-ryeong sighed deeply.
-That’s why ignorant people are scarier. You little crow-tit. Even if I travelled the whole world I wouldn’t find a guy as crazy as you. Your spirit is of the Righteous Sect, but your mind and methods have turned to the Demonic Cult and embraced it. Good grief.
“Uh. I don’t know the martial arts terms yet. So what about it?”
-Such an idiot…
Bae Hu-ryeong muttered.
-This is bizarre, but this kid has no clue. Good grief. I’m going nuts.
“Tell me so I can understand. Come on.”
-In a word, a master of the Righteous Sect is using the demonic arts. You want me to be more precise? It’s [a master of the Righteous Sect who only knows how to use the demonic arts]. You zombie. Are your nose and ears stuffed?
I raised my left hand to cover my nose.
“It does feel a little clogged.”
-This guy has been starving for just over a week and then his mind goes nuts… No, it was like this from the beginning… Did I do something wrong in my previous life to have to deal with this idiot…
Bae Hu-ryeong lamented.
-This guy’s even making me disturbed in the mind. Wow. How am I supposed to teach this guy martial arts? I think it’ll be fucked if I teach him the same way I taught Grandpa Marcus. What am I supposed to do…
Ah. I was hungry.
I wanted to eat a Choco Pie.
A Choco Pie that when you bite into it tastes like chocolate. A Choco Pie with a chewy white marshmallow inside. I wanted to eat just one piece of Choco Pie while drinking warm milk.
What is hunger?
Gongja says that hunger is a Choco Pie.
A delicious and healthy chocolate pie—
-…Hey. You’re thinking of something else now, aren’t you?
“No? I’m thinking about martial arts.”
-Don’t lie. I can clearly see from your face that you’re thinking something foolish.
Why does this man know me so well? Was he a stalker? Technically, Bae Hu-ryeong was a ghost that always followed behind me. You can even say that he’s a ghost stalker. My mood soured when I thought that.
What a nasty stalker.
“I’m telling the truth. The truthiest of truths. Were you frequently deceived when you were alive to be this doubtful?”
-Then tell me. What and how were you thinking about martial arts?
The stalker nitpicked. Even the way that he hung onto the little things resembled the behavior of a stalker. Even though he was as large as a gorilla. Hurry up and enter Nirvana, Ghost Gorilla Stalker.
I made a solemn expression.
“I thought I’d go down the mountain for a while.”
-Descend the mountain? Why? Are you going to teach the Heavenly Demon a lesson this time?
I waved my hand in denial.
“I’ve only just reached the start of the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art. What use is it if I commit suicide now and return to the Heavenly Demon? I’ll only get the same reaction, like [Well, he has some potential].
-Yeah? Why does that matter? You’ll still get recognition from her.
“How is that enough? That won’t do at all.”
I left the cave.
“Do you know how frustrated and upset I was when the Heavenly Demon ignored me, saying that I’d never really starved? I’m a petty person. Just being recognized can’t heal my wounds.”
-This guy is giving me a bad feeling…
“The response I want is [I’m surprised].”
I wanted to see her surprised face.
I wanted the Heavenly Demon to see me use the sword and be shocked.
“[Your talent is overflowing! It’s explosive! I didn’t realize that you were an opportunity for me. I’m sorry, the eyes of the great me have sprained for a while.]”
Just imagining it made me feel better.
At that moment, the Heavenly Demon’s face would be as satisfying as a Choco Pie.
“Well. How does this sound? Sword Emperor, you acknowledge it too, right?”
-Such a nasty asshole…
I came down the snowy mountain and headed for the snowfield.
“I felt something while using the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art. Ah. Compared to the people of this era, I have never been so starved. The farmer knows the bark, the exact tree that he would strip it from. He knows just how to prepare the bark. My imagination couldn’t go that far.”
Because I haven’t tried it.
“The clearer my mental image, the more powerful skill that will emerge. The reason that my martial arts is weak even though I’ve learned the [Infernal Heavens Demonic Art] skill is because my image is inferior. So…”
I stopped in the snow.
“From now on, I will fill the imagination that I lack.”
-What are you gonna do? Are you really going to eat bark?
“No. There is a much better way.”
“Hundred Ghosts Reincarnation.”
Moonlight shone. The snowfield was dyed silver.
Suddenly, a cloud covered the moon. The clouds in the night sky became shadows on the snowfield. Little by little. Like bugs, the shadows swallowed the snowfield bit by bit.
The moon was swallowed by the shadows.
[Your skill is being activated.]
After a while, the clouds receded.
However, the shadows in the snowfield did not disappear. Even in the moonlight, the snowfield was no longer silver. As if the moon, once swallowed, could not return, there were numerous shadows in the snow.
One of the shadows opened her mouth.
“Did you call us?”
The demon knelt on one knee. Crunch. The snow was crushed by her knee and made a small sound. Thousands of skeletons stood behind her.
“Demon. I have a task for you.”
“Please give us our orders.”
“This is a world that is ending. All humans have become ghosts and corpses, wandering around the nine celestial bodies. Well. Maybe it’s similar to the Aegim Empire that you once destroyed.”
The demon bowed a little lower.
“My command is simple. Scatter. Scatter and gather the hungry corpses.”
“The hungry corpses… you say?”
I gazed upon the endlessly snowy night.
“There will be towns and rural villages somewhere around here. Find them. And bring the corpses that you find to here. The corpses move, so they will resist, but you number over 4 thousand. Overwhelm them with quantity.”
“How many?” The demon opened her mouth carefully.
“How many corpses shall we retrieve…?”
Humans with the trauma of hunger. I will learn their hunger.
And when I learn and master their hunger.
I would be closer to the Heavenly Demon at last.
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